Tuesday, January 06, 2009

International community must stop Gaza war

By Ghassan Michel Rubeiz

Palm Beach Gardens, FL: The international community should immediately intervene in Gaza and end this war. It is imposing an intolerable price on civilians, killing more than 500, many of them innocent children, injuring 2,700 people and making daily life, which was already dire, all but impossible.

The images of this immense suffering gravely alarm the Arab and Muslim world, inciting hatred against Israel — and by extension, against its defender, the United States.

Hamas’s rocket shelling of Israeli citizens is also morally indefensible, useless and provocative. There are much better ways to resist the oppressive Israeli siege of Gaza and the wider occupation.

For Israel, going after Hamas militarily is counterproductive, even in the short to medium term. Being a grassroots movement, Hamas is extremely resilient. It has the potential to regenerate its political muscle, no matter the damage it suffers. Regardless of how regressively Hamas — formally known as the Islamic Religious Movement — governs or how unrealistic its rejection of Israel is, Palestinians are rallying around it because of Israel’s aggression.

Hamas won a democratic Palestinian election in January 2006. After achieving the electoral right to govern all Palestinian territories, Hamas was unfairly ostracized and undermined by Israel, the United States and the European Union. When Hamas was denied access to political power, more Palestinians identified with it, in defiance of external intervention.

When the United States and the EU imposed an embargo on Gaza, more Palestinians rallied to the side of Hamas. In its autocratic rule over Gaza, Hamas has nevertheless shown discipline and offered social services and provided local security. Hamas’s rival party, Fatah, and its leaders in the Palestinian Authority, rule the West Bank as a separate entity from Gaza with dubious legitimacy bestowed by Israel.

The international community must allow Palestinians to shape the character of their governance. For too long political Islam has been considered a threat to the West and its allied Arab regimes. Trying to protect Arab regimes from political Islam has consistently failed in Lebanon, Algeria, Egypt, Syria, Iraq and elsewhere.

Muslims will have to discover, through trial and error, without colonial meddling, how to apply their faith in governance.

Reconciliation of Hamas with Fatah is a crucial precondition for negotiating lasting peace with Israel. Will Barack Obama facilitate the reconciliation among Palestinians in a creative way, or will he — like George Bush — try to divide the two? And will Obama restrain Israel from more aggression, or will he reflexively side with Israel, regardless of its cruel policies?

Obama must recognize that war is futile. He must recognize that the siege of Gaza is a form of collective punishment, which violates the Geneva Conventions. He must reconcile the competing Palestinian factions. And he must make Israel safe.

Countenancing this war will not accomplish any of these goals.

Ghassan Michel Rubeiz is an Arab-American political commentator based in Florida. He can be reached at pmproj@progressive.org

Copyright Ghassan Michel Rubeiz.


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